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How Do We Track Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility at the NIH?

A stairstep road with four flags on each step; from left: red flag, black flag, blue flag, yellow flag

The Federal Government and DEIA

Recently, President Biden required federal agencies to create systematic approaches to “recognize and work to redress inequities in their policies and programs that serve as barriers to equal opportunity.”1 On June 25, 2021, the president released Executive Order 14035: Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) in the Federal Workforce to serve as national policy for incorporating these systematic approaches. The executive order provides the following standard definitions:

Diversity – “The practice of including the many communities, identities, races, ethnicities, backgrounds, abilities, cultures, and beliefs of the American people, including underserved communities.”2

Equity – “The consistent and systematic fair, just, and impartial treatment of all individuals, including individuals who belong to underserved communities that have been denied such treatment.”3

Inclusion – “The recognition, appreciation, and use of the talents and skills of employees of all backgrounds.”4 Sincere inclusion embraces a culture of respect, dignity, and accountability experienced by all workers.

Accessibility – “The design, construction, development, and maintenance of facilities, information and communication technology, programs, and services so that all people, including people with disabilities, can fully and independently use them.”5

Underserved communities – “Populations sharing a particular characteristic, as well as geographic communities, who have been systematically denied a full opportunity to participate in aspects of economic, social, and civic life.”6

These are helpful definitions, but how do we track these goals?

The Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) utilizes the Management Directive 715 (MD-715) to approach tracking these goals. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), MD-715 is the policy guidance—or a roadmap—which federal agencies use in establishing and maintaining effective programs of equal employment opportunity.7 The MD-715 outlines specific objectives, goals, and actions to identify and address inequities present within an agency and tracks them from creation through completion. It can also be used as the foundation of an agency-wide strategic DEIA plan.

What does this mean for the NIH?

Inspired by a model from the Office of Personnel Management, the EDI Rubric provides Institutes and Centers (ICs) with a diversity advancement framework that aims to move them from simple EEO compliance toward being a model EEO employer. The EDI Rubric is also used to assess ICs’ integration of DEIA throughout their organization. We look at the development, progress, and evaluation of each IC’s representational diversity, workplace inclusion, and strategic integration of DEIA into their regular operations. Since the ICs are in various stages of development in terms of implementing and improving their plans, their access to resources, organizational structure, and other uncontrollable factors are accounted for by adjusting milestones and timelines as appropriate.

This blog is the first in a series that will explore the expansive DEIA efforts at the NIH.


  1. Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government
    (footnote to EO 13985 of Jan 20, 21)
  2. Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility in the Federal Workforce (Sec. 2. Definitions to EO 14035 EO of June 25, 21)
  3. Diversity (Sec. 2. Definitions to EO 14035 EO of June 25, 2021)
  4. Diversity (Sec. 2. Definitions to EO 14035 EO of June 25, 2021)
  5. Diversity (Sec. 2. Definitions to EO 14035 EO of June 25, 2021)
  6. Diversity (Sec. 2. Definitions to EO 14035 EO of June 25, 2021)

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